Parents send their children to the John F. Kennedy Elementary School because of the appeal of a bilingual, bicultural education in a multicultural school community. German and American students are taught together in the same classroom with the goal of developing respect, tolerance, and understanding for each other and for the partner culture.
The curriculum combines features of both the American and German educational systems. The elementary school offers unique opportunities for a child’s early exposure and contact to the partner culture and language. Instruction is in German and English, with English being emphasized as the students are already surrounded by the German-language environment.
All students are assigned a Mother Tongue and a Partner Tongue, which define their language arts program during the school day. Because the development of a secure Mother Tongue is a vital part of the curriculum and a prerequisite for learning a partner language, English and German Mother Tongue instruction takes place daily starting in grade 1 and continues through grade 6.
Native English and German speakers always instruct language classes. All students begin with formal Partner Tongue instruction in grade 3. The German Partner Tongue program is designed to accommodate children who have little or no knowledge of the German language. These lessons include oral work and a formal reading and writing program; it is taught at three different levels (D2, D3 and D4). English Partner Tongue for native German-speaking students is taught at one level (E2).
The homeroom teacher is responsible for teaching Math, Social Studies and Art. In grades 3 through 6, children have different teachers for Music, Science, and Physical Education, all of which are taught in well-equipped special facilities. Swimming is an integral part of the program in grade 3. Formal computer instruction begins in grade 3, although students in the lower elementary school use computers for selected activities. Field trips provide students with first-hand experiences in getting to know Berlin.
The elementary school library and media center support the extensive language arts program through its bilingual collection of books and other materials. Library skills are taught as an integrated part of the language program and during special library hours in grades 2-5. Computer work stations are available for students completing research projects for their language arts classes.
Classroom celebrations such as Halloween, St. Martin’s Day (Lantern Festival), Thanksgiving, St. Nikolaus Day, and Fasching (Carnival) acquaint the students with the customs and traditions of the partner nations. Other celebrations throughout the school year help students become aware of different cultures and belief systems.